In Unstable Times, Millennials Have Our Backs

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Like many of our friends, my husband and I began looking at possible countries for relocation as last month’s presidential election ratcheted up our fear.

On hearing this, our 19-year-old granddaughter nodded and said her parents’ reaction had been similar. Then she set aside the journal/sketch pad that’s rarely out of her hands.

“I felt the same way, Grandmom,” she said slowly. “But then I realized I have to stay because there are so many people here who are going to need protecting.”

An accomplished artist and writer who speaks several languages, Ari is blessed with a spectacular imagination. It seems like yesterday she was four, having me fast-forward through Ursula’s vicious rampages each time we watched The Little Mermaid.

I wish that function had existed when the evil Snow White queen terrified me at that age. I wish I could have fast-forwarded through later atrocities perpetrated by Civil Rights opponents, Charles Manson, the Unabomber, Neo-Nazis, 9/11 attackers and all the other deranged hate-mongers.

Now, as I long to point my remote and zoom through the next four years, I’m awed by the valor of the girl I once shielded from Ursula’s brutality. She stands ready to defend the most vulnerable Americans from the horrors to come, and her peers are standing with her.

Jared, an economics major I’ve known all of his 27 years, was pained by the election. Within hours he had outlined an action plan for those mired in shock and misery: Lobby Congress to move swiftly on important legislation. Support free speech while we have it. Identify worthy causes and good candidates. Donate, volunteer, write letters, hand out pamphlets. And that’s just a synopsis. Who among his Facebook friends didn’t feel more energized after reading his post?

My niece Laura and her friend Mari, bright and well-traveled women in their mid-20s, happily voted in their new community in Virginia. My heart twisted to see their joie de vivre quenched the next day, but Laura quickly signed the petition to Electoral College voters and urged others to follow suit. Mari penned words of optimism and resolve in a poem that ended with this reminder:

We are strong, and so long as our voices And choices remain positive, I am Confident in our intent to thrive.

In unity, we will and must and can survive.

All four realize they’re apt to get targeted by hate groups and/or lose badly needed resources. They know $20 trillion in debt looms in their future along with a global warming crisis the new administration has called a hoax. Their contemporaries who express concern have been scorned as spoiled brats by the “winners,” who demand the kind of cooperation they have withheld for eight years and deny mounting evidence of the savagery they have helped unleash.

Yet in the face of ridicule and threats, millennials appear to be mindful of Hillary Clinton’s insistence that they find a way to work together and bridge that divide.

“Attacking people for voting in what we disagree with doesn’t help things,” Jared said. “We must find common ground and make progress on what we can while limiting what regression must come with the victory of the views that come with hate.”

If anecdotes aren’t persuasive, look at the voting patterns. Bernie Sanders was heavily favored in this age bracket, but when he withdrew they set aside their regret and cast their ballots for the flawed but capable Clinton. shows if millennials had been the only voters, she would have won in a landslide. Instead their elders were so eager to slap her down they chose a man many of them loathe, willfully enabling a culture of racism, sexism, xenophobia and violence.

Millennials are the so-called entitled and helpless generation. They’re stereotyped as whiners who want trophies for non-achievements and prefer being chauffeured to earning drivers’ licenses―little engines who don’t think they can unless Mom pushes them up and over the hill.

It turns out that as parents were helicoptering play dates, exams, ball games and job interviews, a lot of their offspring were studying how the larger world worked. Figuring out how it might work better. Owning their responsibility to give it a try.

Whatever they’re slow to learn, their grasp of technology and communication is astounding. They’re willing to learn anything from using an Epi-pen to building huts in Africa and they can console a bullied teen in Iowa or a burn victim in New Mexico faster than most of us can find the link to the news story.

I was uncertain about how to give comfort in the wake of the election so in addition to a few words of my own, I relayed messages from trusted leaders like Barack Obama and insightful writers like Aaron Sorkin plus a bit of wisdom from Confucius: Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

This time I was slower to rise, and I’m immeasurably proud of the resilient young people who beat me to it. Above all I’m grateful they’re helping the rest of us get to our feet and get to work, signaling that they’ve got this and won’t stop trying to make their country more tolerant, its people better safeguarded and its future more hopeful.